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Kimberly Blessing

Seeking Your Suggestions

2 min read

Photo of Kimberly by Ari Stiles

Welcome to my new blog! I wanted to ditch my old blog in order to start something new and focused. While my old blog varied widely from the professional to the personal, this blog will be focused on Web development and management topics. And while posting at the old blog was hit or miss, I've committed to Project 52, so new content will be appearing on this site weekly.

My first set of posts will be targeted at job-seeking Web developers, discussing topics like what to include in a code portfolio and how to prepare for a technical interview. As someone who has done a lot of hiring (and is doing so currently, hint hint) I hope to give some valuable advice to those looking to make job moves in 2010.

While I have some other topics planned, I'd love to get your input on what other topics I should cover. I have experience in championing Web standards, crafting code for heavily-trafficked sites, constructing content management systems, and building and leading strong teams. So, what are your questions? What issues are you facing? Tell me in the comments or email me at obiwan at kimberly blessing dot com. And thanks for joining me!

Kimberly Blessing

Tips for Women in the Workplace

5 min read

From the New York Times, The Mismeasure of Woman:

"For the first time, women make up half the work force. The Shriver Report, out just last week, found that mothers are the major breadwinners in 40 percent of families. We have a female speaker of the House and a female secretary of state. Thirty-two women have served as governors. Thirty-eight have served as senators. Four out of eight Ivy League presidents are women. Great news, right? Well, not exactly. In fact, it couldn’t be more spectacularly misleading."

Sadly, it's true: making up half of the workforce has not brought women equality in the workplace. American work places are still largely ill-suited for us and our employers do not fully recognize or taking advantage of our talents. What's more, we're still far too often demeaned, belittled, and treated as sex objects -- usually behind closed doors, but sometimes publicly, too. What must women continue to do to gain equal footing?

In Ten Things Companies -- and Women -- Can Do To Get Ahead, employers are reminded that a lack of gender diversity in executive and board positions hurts both the company, as well as professional women, and provides some great tips for companies seeking to increase female presence. While all of the tips were good, those which I'd personally recommend, from personal experience, include: (emphasis mine)

  • Make Mentoring a Priority: Research shows that mentoring programs can be powerful tools for advancing the careers of professional women. Every young professional can benefit from having a mentor. But for women in male-dominated corporate environments, the need is even greater. Women with mentors, research finds, are more likely to apply for promotions.
  • Retain Your Best Women: What does it take to keep talented women in your organization? Asking them directly is a good place to start in getting an answer. However, research finds that flexible work hours, generous maternity leave benefits and coaching for women returning to the workforce can make a difference.
  • Measure Your Results: When companies put goals in writing and track their results, things gets done. Companies need to know where they stand and make managers accountable for the level of gender diversity in their organizations.
  • Move Beyond Tokenism: According to McKinsey, companies with three or more women in senior management scored higher on measures of organizational excellence than companies with no women at the top. It is not enough to add a woman here or there. The best performers build a critical mass that gives women the power to have their views heard.

The article also provides some suggestions for women -- again, all good tips. Here are the ones I'm always telling other women:

  • Dare to Apply: McKinsey, citing internal research from HP, found that "women apply for open jobs only if they think they meet 100 percent of the criteria listed, whereas men respond to the posting if they feel they meet 60 percent of the requirements." That by itself, if it holds true across the corporate world, could be holding back a lot of talented women.
  • Know What You are Good At: Instead of just focusing on what you are lacking, take time to inventory what you have to offer. Evaluate your potential based on your skills and competencies, not merely the jobs you have held in the past. Many of your skills could be applicable in jobs -- or in fields -- you have not considered.
  • Know What Success Means to You and Move Toward It: If you want to get somewhere, it helps to know where you are going. In the book "Stepping Out of Line: Lessons for Women Who Want It Their Way...In Life, In Love, and At Work," author Nell Merlino says: "You have to see it before you can devise a plan to get there."

Some of the best advice I've read lately comes from an unlikely source -- Forbes. (They've published a number of sexist pieces in the past year or two.) The article states what many people won't acknowledge, telling women: "Sexism, whatever you call it, hasn't disappeared. But it's better to know exactly what you're up against." Amongst their list of unwritten rules: (emphasis mine)

  • Men get the benefit of the doubt. Men generally get hired on their promise and women on their demonstrated experience. Men are usually taken at their word, while women get challenged more, required to deliver data and substantiation for their views.
  • You won't get sufficient feedback. Professional development depends upon rigorous, comprehensive, ongoing feedback. Your (male) boss may not feel comfortable delivering that information to you. You need to be direct in asking for it from him and from other colleagues and team members.
  • Women are rendered invisible until they demonstrate otherwise. If you want to be noticed, you've got to offer your ideas, approach a mentor, ask for the assignments, build a network, convey your aspirations and communicate your achievements.

I feel very lucky to have worked with some great women and men in the course of my career who -- regardless of whether or not they acknowledged that sexism still exists -- proactively mentored me, instructed me, and helped me overcome any roadblocks which could have set me back. Still, I see too many environments in which sexism, however subtle, is part of the status quo and managers and leaders are unprepared (and, sadly, sometimes unwilling) to change their own behaviors, as well as those of their teams. I realize that I make people uncomfortable in raising these issues and pushing to address them. But what others must realize is that I live according to a rule my mother taught me long ago, which is reiterated in the Forbes article by Ann Daly, and which I can't say often enough to other women: "Don't let them sabotage your ambitions".

Kimberly Blessing

Speaking up for Women in STEM

2 min read

With the Obama administration finally in office, women's issues have gained new focus. Of particular interest and importance to me is the focus on the lack of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

The New York Times is writing about it (In 'Geek Chic' and Obama, New Hope for Lifting Women in Science) and public radio is talking about it (Breaking the glass ceiling for women scientists), as are so many other media outlets. So far I'm not hearing anything new -- meaning I'm not hearing any new ideas on how to affect change and bring in/retain women -- but I'm trying to remain positive. I have to hope that more coverage means more eyes and ears will consume this information, and that it may start to take hold with those unfamiliar with the issue.

Unfortunately, events of the recent past make that hope difficult to drum up sometimes. When pointing out statements made by men that were (intentionally or unintentionally) offensive or hurtful or discouraging towards women, I was told, in various ways, to shush and not get so emotional. Now, I have pretty tough skin, so I'm not pointing out statements and actions to defend myself, but to inform others of what their statements and actions may mean to other women. Maybe that's why I get the reaction I do -- perhaps my statements aren't seen as genuine, because I'm really not expressing emotion, and thus they are dismissed. Maybe I'm over-thinking this, but it does bother me, because I want to be a good servant in this area to my fellow women. Your suggestions and thoughts on how I can accomplish this are most welcome.

More reading...

Kimberly Blessing

Books I'm looking forward to reading

2 min read

Lately I've been on a steady diet of technical books and management/leadership books, but my required reading for an upcoming meeting at Bryn Mawr has gotten me back in the swing of reading other subject matter. This is a good thing, since I've got some very interesting reads coming up...

First up is a book by my friend, Chris Connelly. He's written Concrete, Bulletproof, Invisible and Fried: My Life As a Revolting Cock, about his life in the music industry. His career has spanned nearly three decades and has included stints with industrial groups such as Fini Tribe, Ministry, Pigface, and the Revolting Cocks (duh!), just to name a few (seriously). I'm hoping that some of the stories that I've heard over the years -- like the time he disassembled every piece of furniture in a Four Seasons hotel room with William Tucker -- appear in this book... and I'm sure there will be plenty of other crazy anecdotes, too. Chris is still making music, though of a much calmer, more esoteric variety. He has a new album titled Forgiveness and Exile coming out this spring that I'm also looking forward to.

Today I pre-ordered Hubert's Freaks: The Rare-Book Dealer, the Times Square Talker, and the Lost Photos of Diane Arbus by Gregory Gibson. The book tells the true story of Bob Langmuir, a rare books dealer in Philadelphia who discovered a treasure trove of never-before-seen prints by the legendary Diane Arbus. The photographs were taken in the 1950's at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus, a Times Square basement phantasmagoria -- an odd piece of Americana deserving of such documentation. The New York Times has an interesting article which piqued my interest... though I'll be honest and disclose that my mom went to high school with Bob, which is how I learned about all of this in the first place.

The next thing I need to work on re-integrating to my reading queue is some fiction... any suggestions?